#23A/B -The Best-Selling Author
William Green is the author of Richer Wiser Happier, an outlier in investing books as a best-seller. He is a craftsman and a perfectionist and having interviewed 40 of the world’s top investors for the book, has some fascinating perspectives on investing and on life.
William Green spent five years painstakingly crafting Richer Wiser Happier and distilling his learnings from interviewing 40 of the world’s top investors. This was a labour of love for him – he didn’t take a vacation in that time – and he went to extraordinary lengths, for example one chapter contains 11,111 words, because he liked the number. The love and careful craftmanship shines through and is what made the book a best-seller.
GETTING INTO INTERVIEWING INVESTORS
Green always wanted to be a writer and studied English Literature at Oxford. He fell in love with markets, partly as he saw it as “a smart alec short cut way of making a living without doing too much work”. He had his first article published almost by accident and ended up as a journalist. Interviews with great investors followed. He persuaded John Templeton to see him for a Forbes article with an element of cunning and guile. As he interviewed more successful investors, he became more interested in the personality types, and it became a moral and intellectual pursuit – how do you build a sustainable and successful life? “The great investors are playing this game they can’t get enough of” – very true of Mario Gabelli, for example, our last guest. The money is a good scorecard but the game itself is intoxicating. And Green suggests we ask ourselves “am I playing some game that I am really suited to play?” and “am I really passionate about it?”
RICHER, WISER, HAPPIER
Green spent five years writing the book, which unusually for an investing book, has become a best seller. It was an all consuming passion, he didn’t take a vacation in that period. He says he wanted to create something “true, beautiful and good”. He interviewed 40 investors for the book, and the people he went big on were the good thinkers, people to learn from, people he admired.
Green mirrors some of the qualities of some of these great investors – the obsessiveness, committing to quality in an uncompromising way in the same way some of the investors seek out quality investments.
Some of the most popular highlights of the book include:
Sixth, said Templeton, “One of the most important things as an investor is not to chase fads.”
“There are four things that we know improve brain health and brain function,” says Shubin Stein. “Meditation, exercise, sleep, and nutrition.”
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
ABOUT WILLIAM GREEN
William Green is the author of RICHER, WISER, HAPPIER: How the World’s Greatest Investors Win in Markets and Life.
Green has interviewed the world’s most successful investors, exploring in depth how they have achieved such success in a highly competitive field. And how we can benefit by copying their winning strategies.
Green has written for The New Yorker, Time, Fortune, Forbes, Barron’s, Fast Company, Bloomberg Markets, and The Economist. He has collaborated on several books and worked closely with renowned his friend Guy Spier on his book, The Education of a Value Investor. Green also wrote and edited The Great Minds of Investing, which briefly profiles 33 renowned investors.
Green was born in London, went to school at Eton (our 3rd Old Etonian on the podcast), studied English literature at Oxford University, and received a Master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. He lives in New York with his wife and family.
Green recommended two books:
Why We Meditate: 7 Simple Practices for a Calmer Mind by Daniel Goleman and Tsoknyi Rinpoche. A new book which teaches you how to overcome negative thoughts
Letting Go by David Hawkins. This book describes a method of using an inner mechanism of surrender – this is a practical way of releasing inner blockages to happiness.
RICHER, WISER, HAPPIER
William didnt suggest his own book, but I shall. It’s a book which will indeed make you wiser and happier. It may not make you financially richer but you will be richer as a person.
HOW STEVE KNOWS THE GUESTS
Steve asked William if he would come on the podcast and he kindly said yes. They almost met up in Omaha, maybe next year!
This is an AI generated transcript – let us know if it’s good enough and useful.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM : Hi, welcome to the Behind the Balance Sheet podcast where we meet leading investors and commentators and educate ourselves about the world of investing and the world. Our mission is to remove some of the mystique around investing and improve our understanding of what makes a successful investment or indeed an unsuccessful one. Our goal is to inform, educate and entertain. We hope you enjoy this and every episode
DISCLAIMER: Behind the balance sheet and affiliates and podcast guests may own shares or have an economic interest in securities discussed in this podcast which is aired for your education and entertainment. Only nothing in this podcast should be construed as investment advice or relied upon for investment decisions. Always do your own research.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM : William Green isn’t an investor yet he is investing royalty, Charlie Munger Warren Buffett’s right hand man reads 300 books a year and is one of the sharpest brains in the investing world and probably the world. He thinks Green’s book Richer Wiser. Happier is one of the best investing books ever written that should make Green Happier and richer.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM : But he’s still looking over his shoulder at Morgan Housel, whose first book has had even sales. This surprised me because Green is a man in search of contentment, perhaps interviewing 40 of the world’s best investors has given him a competitive streak. His book has been crafted with great precision and enormous care. He talks in the second half of this interview about crafting a chapter that contained exactly 11,111 words because it gave him pleasure, richer wiser. Happier was a five year late of love and it shines through Green talks about the more you study great investors, the more interesting characters you find and his is an exploration of more than investing. It’s an exploration of life.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM : Green started out with an interest in investing as a smart alec shortcut way of making a living without doing too much work. His words, he’s come around to a life philosophy which asks, is there any downside to having integrity for him? This has become a moral and intellectual pursuit. Green reflects on the characteristics of great investors to be really good.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM : You have to be maniacal to have a lack of emotion and a degree of obsessiveness and all that doesn’t make for the best spouses, hence the high divorce rate. A lot of professional investors listen to this podcast perhaps hoping to improve their skills. This episode may not improve your investing skills, but it might just improve your life. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM : William. I’m so excited to be with you today and thank you so much for coming on the podcast.
WILLIAM GREEN: It’s such a pleasure. Thank you for having me.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM : And I normally ask people, you know, how they got into the investment business. And I, I mean, I guess you didn’t set out with the idea that you would write a book that sold it. A good goodness knows how many copies. I mean, well, what did you want to do when you were a kid?
WILLIAM GREEN: Oh, I wanted to be a writer from very early on. I, I remember I had, I had this wonderful great uncle, a guy called Dick Peer who is a professor at the University Of Nottingham.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I remember sitting with him when I was about 789 years old, seven or eight at my grandmother’s apartment in London. And Dick said in this very affable cordial way, what do you want to be when you grow up, William? And I think I surprised myself by saying a writer.
WILLIAM GREEN: And he said to me, you know, all of my friends who are writers say that the most important thing is just to write a lot so that you get your voice. And it was a, an incredibly helpful piece of advice. And b it was so modest and lovely and un condescending given the fact that he was a very renowned politics professor. And as I discovered decades later written plenty of books himself.
WILLIAM GREEN: And it was, it was a sort of consummate way to treat a young person with respect, a total lack of condescension, kindness. He was a, he was a really lovely man. And so, so I always wanted to be a writer and I wasn’t really very good at many other things. I mean, I love language. I loved literature. I studied English literature at Oxford. I was ok at languages but I, you know, I can count to about seven.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so I’m entirely unqualified to be an expert on investing. So, in some ways, it’s some kind of cosmic joke.
WILLIAM GREEN: But what happened, I guess in my twenties is that I just became obsessed with the market. I just sort of fell in love with the stock market. And I think it was slightly just because I’m sort of lazy and subversive. And I just thought this is the most amazing thing.
WILLIAM GREEN: If you can play this game intelligently, you don’t have to work that hard. And so I had this kind of this slightly naive dream that by being smart about investing, I would be able to do these other things like write without having to take orders from annoying bosses or things like that.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so I think that was the start of my obsession with the market. And then I just, I just found it really fascinating and, and the, it, it’s a part of what happened is that I was able to interview these great investors because I was a journalist. So I was writing for magazines like Forbes And Money and fortune and, and later for time and barons and things like this.
WILLIAM GREEN: So, so I was in this very unusual position in that I could actually go and interview famous investors and indulge this weird obsession that I had, which is an odd obsession for a very literary person.
WILLIAM GREEN: Like you, you know, if you came from my sort of background, you regarded people who were interested in money and business as slightly tawdry and vulgar and crass. And we were much more high minded, but I just thought it was an amazing game and, and the more I started to study these people, the more I just thought these are amazing characters.
WILLIAM GREEN: I’m not sure you found the same Steve, right? Like at the upper, at the upper echelon of the investing world. There are some pretty weird, interesting, brilliant, eccentric characters and they’re smart about so many things, not just investing, but about how to think.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM : Well, I mean, yeah, there’s a few psychopaths and they’re all, they all have a streak of brilliant. No, no question. And it’s interesting because it’s not outlawed Eaton because you’re meant to be a prime minister or something. But there are, I, you’re my third old Etonian actually on the podcast, which is, is, is quite funny, particularly given my background. But where did you start? What was your first journalist job?
WILLIAM GREEN: Well, gosh, let me think back. I’m 54 now. So this is a long time ago. So, so I left dog pretty young. I was 20 and partly just because my, my birthday is in August and I hadn’t taken a gap here. And so I, so I left and I was obsessed with these authors, like Ford Madox. Ford and Joseph Conrad and Ford and Conrad had this very interesting relationship together where they, they’d written books together.
WILLIAM GREEN: At one point, Conrad got incredibly depressed and Ford was so brilliant that he could actually write the next installment of Conrad’s novel in Conrad’s Voice without anyone knowing. And so I saw that there was a, there was a biography of this slightly underrated, great novelist, Ford Madox. Ford. There was this biography coming out and I thought, well, that’d be cool.
WILLIAM GREEN: I’ll, I’ll write an article about Ford’s relationship with Conrad and I’ll send it to various publications. And so I went to the Hay On White Literary Festival with my late father who was a, a barrister and a judge. And while I was there, I mailed out this article that I’d written about Ford’s relationship with Conrad and my father at the time said he thought, oh, poor William, he’s gonna be so disappointed.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I sent it to five publications which you’re not supposed to do. And I had no idea. And there was a, there was a thing in a book called The Writer’s Digest that said that The Spectator, which is this great old magazine, I mean, more conservative than I am but a great old magazine that all of these famous writers had written for and, and it said that they accepted unsolicited manuscripts, which was a mistake.
WILLIAM GREEN: It’s not true. It wasn’t true then anyway, and they were one of the five publications I sent this article to and they sent back this buff colored envelope with a copy of the magazine in it, with my article in it printed with maybe one word changed, two words changed.
WILLIAM GREEN: Where I had, I had put the mo used and, and then a translator is the correct word or something. They’d taken out that translation. That was the only change. And I had a check for £70.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I just remember standing in my, in, you know, in the doorway of my apartment in Clapham in those days. Now I live in New York and just doing this kind of victory dance of just, you know, that one of those half dozen moments in your life of just total and utter elation.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I just thought this is the most amazing thing. I mean, this is the publication that people like Graham Greene wrote for and Doctor Johnson and it was just such an ecstatic thing. And, and so that really was the start. And then I started writing for the spectator and the literary review.
WILLIAM GREEN: And then I moved to New York and I wrote for The New Yorker for the Talk of the Town section. At a time when, when you didn’t even have a byline. So I used to say that I was anonymously famous and and so it was kind of this magical thing and in those days because we didn’t have the internet, nobody knew how inexperienced I was.
WILLIAM GREEN: So I, I would get sent off for example, to Mississippi to write a story about this white supremacist called Byron De La Beckwith who had killed a, a great black civil rights leader in the sixties and was being retried after being acquitted in the sixties by an all white jury.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I got this assignment from the independent magazine, which was then probably the best magazine in the country to go write a 4000 word 88 page story about this in Mississippi in Jackson, Mississippi. I must have been about 23.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I think the reason was partly what I realized later is there was another William Green who wrote for publications like Vogue and was a very good writer and I think they probably assumed it was, it was him.
WILLIAM GREEN: Yeah, it’s kind of like if you read Evelyn Moore’s novel Scoop, you know, they send the wrong, the wrong guy to cover the war. And so I was, I was that and so it was a, it was a kind of magical thing and you could, you could ask people anything and you can imagine the wonder of going to a place like Jackson Mississippi and writing about a white supremacist.
WILLIAM GREEN: And literally, you know, I’m, I’m like a Jewish kid from London, but I have a posh accent and went to Eton and Oxford. And so they thought I was some kind of wasp. And so I would have, you know, the wife of this white supremacist, literally asking me if I wanted to take her visitation rights to go visit her white supremacist husband in prison.
WILLIAM GREEN: And then in the end, they canceled my vis my visit because he decided that he wasn’t he wasn’t gonna eat because he was convinced that the Jews were poisoning him or something like that. And so, but you can imagine for a young curious guy in his early twenties to go around the world and do stories like that, it was just magnificent.
WILLIAM GREEN: That’s amazing.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: And what was the, who was the first investor you interviewed?
WILLIAM GREEN: Do you remember? I think the first investor I interviewed was Marty Whitman who I was obsessed with because he was this great commu the old value investor. And I was a value investor from very, pretty much instantly. I just, I value investing just made sense to me. And I’m, I’m sort of an outsider and a contrarian by nature and a bit of a smart alec and subversive.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I, and I guess I have this sort of snobbish view that the crowd is somehow stupid. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could outwit the crowd by being smarter. And, and so it sort of appealed to me and, and Whitman in those days was 80 something and he had a fantastic record and he was curmudgeonly un rude about, you know, how little his his competition understood and how rational his approach was.
WILLIAM GREEN: But he had a great record and I invested in his fund and later had a separate account with him. And what was interesting was he really was great and he was very tough and very remarkable, a terrific investor.
WILLIAM GREEN: But then during the financial crisis, he totally screwed up and he was left holding all of these stocks like M B I A which were totally catastrophic. And I interviewed him after it and I said, why did you do so badly during the financial crisis? Like, not only, not only did you own so many of these duds, but then you totally failed to buy when everything was crushed. And he said this remarkable thing to me.
WILLIAM GREEN: He said, he said I got older and richer. I became lazy and I thought that was an extraordinary admission. And, and he said, but look, what’s the difference? You know, I mean, if my kids and charity inherit tens of millions of dollars last 10 $20 million it’s not the end of the world.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I didn’t have the heart to say to him, you know, I got my mother to set up a separate account with you and you really served her poorly. You failed in your fiduciary responsibility to my elderly mother. And it’s a, it’s a really important thing I think to recognize that this is a kind of moral undertaking that there were people who suffered because he didn’t, he didn’t do his job.
WILLIAM GREEN: And if he took his eye off the ball because he was getting tired or rich or lazy, that was a sort of moral failing. And I, I didn’t have the heart to say it to him.
WILLIAM GREEN: You know, I’m sort of, I don’t know, I’m, I’m, I, I tend to try as I get older to be a little bit kinder. And so if you notice, like in my book for the most part, the person who comes in for most criticism is me.
WILLIAM GREEN: I, you know, I’m pretty happy to sort of mock myself for my own stupidity and failing some mistakes. I, I try not to point the finger that much at, at people, but I did, I did mention in the book that I thought he failed on that front and the, the reason I mentioned it wasn’t so much to sort of take a dig at him.
WILLIAM GREEN: What I was trying to do was to remind people who are reading the book, who manage money that you do in a sense, have a sacred responsibility. And it’s very easy to get caught up in the idea of like, well, look at my Ferrari and my Lamborghini and look at my, my big house and look how beautiful my suit is from, from Sale Row and stuff.
WILLIAM GREEN: And to forget that, you know, these are, these are people’s retirement savings and their kids college and my, my mother’s retirement would be better if Whitman had done his job more rigorously. And, and so, so for that rare occasion where I actually did point out somebody’s flaw and failing.
WILLIAM GREEN: There was a reason for it. There was a, there is a sort of a sort of, slightly ill concealed, proselytizing gene that I have where I, there is a sort of slightly moralistic side to me where I, I’m not trying to wag the finger at anyone, but I want people to look at some of the people in the book who are great role models and say, oh, yeah, that’s a pretty cool way to do capitalism.
WILLIAM GREEN: And, and one of the people I really admire this, a guy, Tom Gaynor that I write about at some length in, in the book. And Tom Gaynor, who, who runs Markell Corporation, which is a sort of mini Berkshire that’s become, you know, one of the, one of the Forbes Fortune 400 companies, big company. He was a devout Quaker as a kid and ended up becoming, you know, quite a devout Presbyterian.
WILLIAM GREEN: Now as an adult and he’s very moral about running money and, and he he at one point, he had been talking to Chris Davis who comes from this kind of famous family of three generations of great money managers. And Chris who’s now on the board of Bucks Hathaway said to me, you know, you really need to to focus heavily on, on Tom Gaynor because he’s really the reason why I became a money manager.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I said, how come? And he said, well, I was thinking of going into a seminary even though I, I think he was agnostic at the time, but he was thinking of becoming a seminarian. And he said, I, I, you know, his father and his grandfather were both legendary investors. And he said to Tom Gaynor, I feel like this is a low calling being a money manager.
WILLIAM GREEN: You know, it’s like, is it really valuable? And Gana said to him, look, this is one of the oldest professions, you know, maybe the second oldest profession in the Bible, right? It’s, you know, you’re, you’re a custodian of people’s wealth and that’s a, that’s a kind of, that’s a, that’s a holy duty and that had a huge impact on Chris.
WILLIAM GREEN: And it, it actually, it enabled him to stay in the investment business, that sense of, of like, yeah, no, I’m actually, I’m doing something that’s really valuable and just protecting people a, from themselves, from doing stupid stuff themselves and protecting them from, from other unscrupulous people who are gonna screw them and take advantage of them.
WILLIAM GREEN: I, I think is a, I, I, you know, Manga, Manga Charlie, Manga Buffett’s partner says it’s, it’s a low vocation but it is a vocation and I, I, I don’t know. I, I think that’s what, what better than to, to enable someone to send their kids to college and retire, comfortably without fear or things like that. That, that seems pretty valuable to me.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: No, I think it is a valuable, I think it’s a profession, although it seems bizarre that anybody can do it. You don’t need to have any qualifications and there’s no, there’s no really, there’s not really a professional qualification other than the C fa which is, you know, I don’t consider it to be a qualification but you had to get pretty serious about things like forensic accounting and stuff.
WILLIAM GREEN: Right. I mean, there were skills that you needed to get good at this one.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Well, I mean, I, I started from that perspective but I mean, I know investors who never opened accounts, you know, and, and, and are perfectly successful. I mean, you don’t, there are so many ways to be successful at this game that there isn’t, you know, there isn’t a standard, isn’t a standard way, which is what I think is one of the aspects that make it so interesting.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: So, you know, from, from my perspective I’m interested in the, the way different people approach it and, you know, your bent is really about the characters, isn’t it?
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STEPHEN CLAPHAM: So you managed to interview Marty Quitman and was that like they said, oh, William, you’re really good at this go and interview the next guy or did, were you interviewing people from a wide range of, of backgrounds?
WILLIAM GREEN: I just kept pitching stuff, you know, I I was working at Forbes at the time. So I wrote a story called the master and his apprentice, which was about the fact that this old guy Marty Whitman had to find a successor. And I was saying, well, so how do you find a successor? How do you find someone who’s any good?
WILLIAM GREEN: And so I talked about sir John Templeton, you know, trying to figure out how to find a successor stuff like that. And then I would do things where I just would I would think, right, what would be a fun thing to do? And I was thinking, well, so Sir John Templeton is a pretty old kooky, interesting guy.
WILLIAM GREEN: It’d be kind of fun to go visit him in the Bahamas. And so I would write to him and he would say, yeah, I’m happy to give you an interview and I’d go spend the day with him in the Bahamas. So then I would write a story on the secrets of Sir John Templeton or I had this idea around then I, I started to get really interested in this idea of the masters masters.
WILLIAM GREEN: I sort of thought when you look at the greatest investors who influenced them. So then I would do things like I would interview Marty Whitman about his mentor, the guy who influenced him most who and I went to interview that guy who was even older than Marty.
WILLIAM GREEN: He was 90 something and he was a guy called Helmut Friedlander. And Marty said to me, he said, he said I hated him, but he was an amazing mentor. And so I go interview this old guy Helmut Friedlander and he’s wearing two watches. One is a Philippe and the other is a very cheap Timex.
WILLIAM GREEN: And Pa Phillipe was had been given to him by the family that ran the Sears Roebuck business that had originally set that up and he managed their money. And we talked about all these things that he had done over the years like he had, he bought the Empire State Building at one point for, you know, and he, he traded coffee futures and he was just this brilliant old.
WILLIAM GREEN: And he said to me at one point, he said, I, I always used to have, and one of them I, I, once I said, I, I have a stomach pain. I think I have an ulcer. And he said to me, Mr Friedlander, you don’t have an ulcer, you give ulcers.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so he was just this tough old guy and he refused to shake my hand because of the germs, which in those days was very unusual. This is 20 something years ago. And he had this amazing bottle I think of century old port on his desk. And I or sherry, it was actually, and I said to him, will you drink that?
WILLIAM GREEN: And he said, of course, I will drink that. And he started telling me about these, these two cases of shadow protruded that he had drunk recently that he’d bought in auction. And he said to me, I have lived uproariously and I just thought what a what an amazing thing. So I, so I was going off and interviewing these strange interesting characters.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so for that same story which never got published, I went to interview Michael Price about his mentor Max Heney. I, I went to interview Peter Lynch, the legendary Fidelity investor about his mentor, Ned Johnson, who was the founder of Fidelity, which now manages what 9 $10 trillion.
WILLIAM GREEN: I just got to I interviewed Jack Bogle who founded the Vanguard Group which manages $7 trillion something like that. And there was a moment when I was interviewing Jack Bogle where the phone went dead as we were talking about his mentor, this guy Walter Morgan, who was one of the great early mutual fund managers in the US.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I listened to my recording later and I was saying, Mr Bogle, Mr Bogle, are, are you there? Have I lost you?
WILLIAM GREEN: And he said, sorry, it it brought it tears to my eyes and I, I sort of had to gather myself and, you know, as a journalist, you’re having always, as you’re interviewing to sort of adjust on your feet to what’s to what they’re saying. And I, I, I, I, I was like, how, how, how come? And he said, well, I realized how much I loved him and, and how much he did for me.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so for me, this was just kind of riveting like I, I would get to write about what he had learned from Walter Morgan about integrity, for example, and then share it with readers.
WILLIAM GREEN: So for example, there was a moment, I, I think I write this in the notes on sources and additional resources in my book that, that I tell this story where I was asking Bogle about this mentor of his Walter Morgan. And he said, well, one of the things I learned from him is he cared so much about his clients. And I said, can you give me an example?
WILLIAM GREEN: And he said, well, one person wrote to him, wrote him a letter. I mean, I’m guessing this is in the forties or fifties, I mean, in the fifties probably. And the, and said Mr Morgan, I need a suit. Can I, do you have a suit for me?
WILLIAM GREEN: And he said, my God, Mr Morgan sent him one of his suits. And so in telling that story in my book, part of what I’m doing is honoring the memory of Walter Morgan. And part of what I’m doing is honoring the memory of Jack Bogle who’s also dead.
WILLIAM GREEN: And part of what I’m doing is in a kind of subtly proselytizing way I’m saying, do you see what this mindset was that informed the way they behaved? And that mindset is deeply imbued in vanguard, which has driven down expenses unbelievably instead of gouging its shareholders, they’re giving you a good deal.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so there’s something. So for me, the whole thing of covering investing, it went from being a smart alloy way to make money without doing much work just by sort of sitting there with my feet on my desk, reading and thinking to looking at these broader questions like, how are you supposed to live?
WILLIAM GREEN: What like should you have integrity? Is there a downside to having integrity? If you have de integrity? Are people going to take advantage of you? You just like a mug? Is it just a Darwinian doggy dog world?
WILLIAM GREEN: Or should you behave better? And so I would have these conversations with someone like Tom Gaynor who I mentioned before the, the guy from Marquel and he said to me at one point, look, I would behave this way, even if there were no benefit to it, it’s just a better way to behave and it makes me happier. And so for me, it became a kind of moral pursuit.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I, I think part of, you know, moral and intellectual because I, the, the, the greatest investors are extraordinary thinkers. And so they, they, they’re great pragmatists, right? They, they don’t get caught up in dogma because dogma is very expensive because if you become dogmatic, you blind yourself and you, you can’t see properly or think properly.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so I started to realize these were the most free thinking, open minded people. I, I I was looking over an interview yesterday that I’d done with Howard Marks a few months ago at my podcast. And Howard was talking about spending time during COVID shacked up at home with his son, Andrew who helps manage the family’s money.
WILLIAM GREEN: And he was talking about how Andrew was saying to him, look, you know, nothing about Bitcoin. Why on earth are you so against Bitcoin? Why are you reflexively reactively skeptical about Bitcoin? When you know nothing about it, you would know nothing about the technology, you know, nothing about the supply demand dynamic.
WILLIAM GREEN: This isn’t an area of expertise view. And Howard said to me. Well, yeah, I, I’d made lots of money over the years. I’ve become a multibillionaire by being skeptical of the new, new thing and of hype and all of that. And I had to admit, yeah, that’s a, that’s a bias and I need to examine that and I don’t know what I’m talking about and I shouldn’t just leap to conclusions.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I think in, in many ways, his skepticism was justified, but the fact that he was so determined to be open minded and so determined to learn from his son and to say, what do I know? Am I really qualified to know this? That’s an incredible attitude, incredible mindset.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so I, I started to think that the greatest investors were like these practical philosophers, they were looking at what works in life. And this is something Manga specifically says. Manga once said, I observe what works and doesn’t work and why.
WILLIAM GREEN: And, and when you contrast that with politicians or professors, you know, there’s or journalists, it’s, it’s not just that we’re blinded by our biases, it’s that we don’t have that much at stake. And so when we screw up and we get something wrong, we pay a price and it’s kind of embarrassing.
WILLIAM GREEN: But if you have hundreds of millions of dollars on the line when you bet on something and you’re wrong and you’re misguided, you really pay a price and likewise, if you’re right and you think better than everyone else, you, you get such a, an incredible reward. So, I think it, it reminds me of Doctor Johnson.
WILLIAM GREEN: You remember that, who, who wrote the dictionary? Who said something like the, the prospect of hanging, concentrates the mind admirably. And I think that the prospect of losing hundreds of millions of dollars concentrates the mind admirably. It forces you to think. Well, think clearly.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Well, of course, you’ve got tremendous feedback and one of the, you know, one of the better ways of, of improving performance is to have feedback on, on what you’re doing. The other thing that I think is, is, is quite interesting is that the, the, the best investors, they’re curious.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: So Howard Mars was curious about Bitcoin probably. And I think curiosity is something which unites investors and journalists, I think to be a good journalist, you have to be very curious and you obviously are, yeah, relentlessly.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I, I think one of the things is you can’t fake interest. And so when you look at the greatest investors, they’re playing this game that they can’t get enough of, you know, they just, they can’t stop. It’s just, it, I was interviewing a guy, John Spears who has a great record over 50 years at this great old firm, Tweedy Brown. So it’s actually the firm that Buffett bought his stake in Bucks half way through.
WILLIAM GREEN: And Ben Graham used to make his trades through Tweedy Brown back in the thirties and forties. And so it’s this great old investment firm in New York. And John Spears was saying to me, he’s, he’s maybe 74. Now, he said, I just love reading the paper every day through this economic lens trying to figure out, oh, here’s what this means about meta, here’s what this means about these Chinese stocks that I earn.
WILLIAM GREEN: And that sense of just loving the game constantly wanting to keep learning. I think that’s a, that’s a key thing. And, and so I, I mean, I think if there’s any takeaway from that, it’s that you want to really look at your own life and say, am I playing some game that I’m really suited to play? That obsesses me for its own sake.
WILLIAM GREEN: And you, you do Manga talks about this a lot. He says, look, if you’re, if you’re five ft four become a basketball player because you know, you’re not really suited to it, but you also have to, you, you have to play games a that you’re suited to and b that you’re passionate about.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I, that’s been a very helpful filter for me because one of the things that happens when you write a book if it does well, is you get all of these other opportunities right to, to do speeches or to do a podcast or to, you know, people will say you should set up a, a Substack newsletter and you have to look at yourself and really say a, what am I good at?
WILLIAM GREEN: And b what do I really care about? Like, what, what would I actually do for pleasure? And when I look at the greatest investors, I, I think the money that they make is very pleasing and it’s a good scorecard and it gives them independence and latitude to live the way they want. But I think the game itself has to be utterly intoxicating.
WILLIAM GREEN: Does that make any sense? Is that absolutely?
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: I mean, I think that’s the game that, you know, because once you’ve got 100 million or 200 million, I don’t know how much you need.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: It is just a scorecard and, you know, I mean, you know, I’ve been fortunate like you to meet some of these guys that made, you know, huge amounts of money and the money isn’t the thing that motivates them. You know, Sir Chris Hohn. He wears a timex or a swatch, you know, you think, and you know, why do you wear a swatch, Chris? And he said, well, you know, it tells the time it’s quite good, it’s quite attractive, you know, and there’s just no need for anything better.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Has anybody ever refused an interview? I mean, maybe now post the book they won’t. But I mean, have you had experience where people said no? Because John Templeton, I mean, why did he bother being interviewed by you? He was successful. He didn’t, you know, he didn’t need an article in Forbes.
WILLIAM GREEN: Yeah, with Templeton. I was kind of cunning back then. There’s a lot of charm and cajolery and strategizing involved in getting interviews. And in those days, I was much like, I was probably more devious and, and hungry and unscrupulous.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I, I had seen that he was, he’d become obsessed with this spiritual investigation that really captivated him, particularly in, I guess in his eighties, he was about 86 87 when I interviewed him and he wanted to increase what he called the spiritual wealth of humanity 100 fold. And so he was on this mission to investigate things like the power of prayer.
WILLIAM GREEN: And he, he would do things like he would fund research at Harvard Medical School into to whether prayer worked and what type of prayer worked. And, you know, very interesting stuff that at the time I regarded as totally kooky because in those days, I was sort of somewhere between agnostic and atheistic.
WILLIAM GREEN: I was, and the joke is sort of on me because I’ve become increasingly spiritual and the stuff that he was trying to teach me back then, that I was totally closed minded about. Now, I would be much more open minded about.
WILLIAM GREEN: So I think I kind of slightly conned him into thinking we were just gonna talk about this whole spiritual thing which, which we did talk about. But I really wanted to figure out how do we get rich? You know, what can we learn from him about how to be a great investor?
WILLIAM GREEN: Because he had, he had this incredible record. I think he had averaged 14.5% for something like 38 years. It’s astonishing, isn’t it? Yeah. And then he had, and he was really the, you know, the first great global investor, the first guy picking international stocks and, and so I was fascinated by so, so, so there was a sort of slight of hand there where I was cajoling him into talking to me about one thing.
WILLIAM GREEN: And then I ended up talking to him about a lot of other things. And I think at a certain point during the day, he got kind of irritated at me because I think he realized that I was pretty close minded.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so in the chapter that I write about him in my book, part of what I’m doing is I’m literally saying this is what I was too stupid to understand 20 something years ago.
WILLIAM GREEN: And there’s a, there’s a thing again in the notes on sources and resources where I talk about how I was reading a book of his a few years ago and I literally groaned out loud and I flushed, I went totally and utterly red and I was like, oh God, that’s what he was trying to teach me. And I realized just how obtuse and closed minded I had been.
WILLIAM GREEN: And that was a very important lesson. It wasn’t necessarily that he was right in his views. It was that he was open, he was curious, he was constantly investigating and I was too arrogant and too close minded to see it.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so I sort of feel like I’ve been in this 20 something year argument with Templeton where I wanted to go back and look at what I’d missed. And, and, and one of the things that was very moving about going back and doing that was the realization that he was obsessed with gaining control of his mind and his thoughts and his emotions.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I realized, well, of course, look at what he went through. He a, he, he, he started investing during World War Two when the world seemed like it was just going off a precipice. And b he had something like three young children and was on vacation with his first wife and she died in a motorcycle accident.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so he suddenly had to take care of his family as a, as a young widow with three kids. And so I think that that obsession with gaining control of his emotions and his thoughts probably saved him to some degree, whereas I looked at him in those days and I thought there’s something so ascetic and joyless and comly and judgmental about him.
WILLIAM GREEN: I mean, I, I keep thinking of this, that he, he, when we were talking about retired people and whether he would ever retire, he said something like the world is full of useless people.
WILLIAM GREEN: You know, these useless people who had retired and were doing nothing with themselves and he had kind of contempt for it. And he said, he, he was living in life at Qua next to all these people like Sean Connery and the Aga Khan and, and, Grace Kelly, I think had had a house there. I mean, it was a beautiful place to live, right? And, and I said, do you go boating and things like that?
WILLIAM GREEN: And, and he said, no, I don’t have time for things like that, you know, and, and I looked at this and I thought what a joyless Marly judgmental guy this is, but joyless. Not so much because actually he told me he was the most joyful he’d ever been. But I think there was something about how stern he was with himself that made me uncomfortable.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: But don’t you think that these brilliant investors, they, they’re sort of got a ruthless focus on the one thing. So they don’t really know how to have fun, many of them, you know, they, it’s so all consuming and it’s like, I mean, you know, being in markets every day is challenging, you can’t have a day off unless the stock market’s got a day off.
WILLIAM GREEN: So said something very interesting to me once. So Bill who had famously beat the market for 15 years running and he is just an extraordinarily clever guy who I’ve probably interviewed for 18 90 hours over the last 22 years. So I’ve got to know him pretty well.
WILLIAM GREEN: He early in his career, he went for advice to Peter Lynch and he said to Peter Lynch, something along the lines of, can you ever slow down? And Lynch said, no, not really. He said there are two gears in investing. He’s like either either you’re full speed ahead or you stop.
WILLIAM GREEN: And Bill said he was, he was more or less, right? He said, you know, Peter used to carpool every morning at something like 6 30 in the morning. So he could sort of sit in the car and read analyst reports. And I don’t think he took a vacation in, in, in the 13 or 14 years that he was managing Fidelity Magellan. So he had this blazing return, but then he quit and retired.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so this is one thing I think about, right? That, that you need to have this tremendous intensity and sense of competition, but you also have to decide, are you setting yourself up in a way that’s sustainable? And I, I think there’s a real, there’s a real dynamic tension here where you, you know, there’s a, there’s an interesting line. I was interviewing Annie Duke recently who is a poker champion.
WILLIAM GREEN: And now an expert on, on risk. And she was talking about the book, the one on, on resilience Grit by Angela Douglas. And she had written a book herself called Quit, which was about giving up, which in a way is the opposite of grit, right? So Annie was talking about how actually sometimes you need to know when to fold a hand when you got a lousy hand and to move on whether it’s your job, your relationship or your investment.
WILLIAM GREEN: And she said to me, she had been talking to Stephen Tatlock who was the guy who wrote the book on Super Forecasting. And he said the opposite of a virtue is also a great virtue. And so quitting and grit are, are the opposite and yet both virtues.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so this is a long winded way of saying likewise when you think about yes, you ought to be super competitive and be hard charging like a Peter Lynch. And yet you also have to set yourself up so you can be resilient and lost and durable. And so maybe sprinting so fast that you have an incredible record over 13, 14 years, but then have to quit is not such a good thing.
WILLIAM GREEN: Whereas Marty Whitman said to me, look, the great secret about this job is you don’t have to work that hard. Look at me, I’m long-term investor. I don’t sell my stocks a lot and he was wearing shorts and a tennis shirt and strolling into his office and he looked pretty calm, but he took that too far and then didn’t really exercise his fiche responsibility to my mother and his other shareholders by working hard enough.
WILLIAM GREEN: So I think like most things in life, it’s nuanced and contradictory. And I, I think any time you come across a great truth, the opposite is also likely to be true. And so yes, you got to be fanatical and driven.
WILLIAM GREEN: And at the same time, I think you have to think about how am I gonna have enough balance so that I’m going to be sustainable. And so, for example, like my friend Guy Spear, who manages the Aqua Fund, who I I helped him write his book, the educational value investor guy has set up his life in a way where he is sustainable.
WILLIAM GREEN: He, he very rarely makes an investment. Some years, he’ll make no investment at all. So he sits on his portfolio. He’s probably owned Berkshire for since I think 1999 something like that when it was incredibly cheap. And he made it about 20 something percent of his portfolio because everyone said that Buffett was finished back then 23 23 24 years ago.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so Guy is moving slowly And so I’ve often said to the guy, look, my investment with the Acre fund. It’s a, it’s a 40 year investment, you know, it’s already 20 years, 22 years and I think it’ll be another 20 or so years and I, I trust guy because he’s not running around like crazy.
WILLIAM GREEN: And sometimes I, you know, I have friends with on Facebook or something and I’ll see that he’s gone off to Antarctica and he’s reading War and Peace and I’m like, what the hell like manage my money, dude. And then I’m like, no, no, that’s, that’s exactly the right thing. Like he’s building a sustainable life.
WILLIAM GREEN: And, and what guy said to me at one point is he said, look, if I, if I’m not nurturing my relationship with my wife and my three kids, then I’m making myself vulnerable. Like, you know, if I’m just thinking about the position of my Bloomberg terminal and whether it’s too accessible.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so I’m looking at it the whole time, you know, he was cloning Nick sleep and he was saying I should put it in an uncomfortable position. So I’m not constantly looking at my Bloomberg terminal and being yanked around and made to act in a short term way. It’s like, yeah, that’s important, but it’s nowhere near as important as whether my relationship with my wife is good.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so I think when you’re thinking about your life and how to build a sustainably successful life. You actually have to think about things, not just your work ethic and your productivity, you have to think about your relationships because you have to say to yourself when I’m in the crapper and I have terrible return and I made a terrible mistake and I’m humiliated.
WILLIAM GREEN: I’m publicly shamed or when I’ve done everything right. And I do badly or I’ve done everything wrong and I get punished for it. Or I’m in a lawsuit with my partner or, you know, I’m wrongly accused of something or I’m rightly accused of something because I did something really wrong.
WILLIAM GREEN: Who’s gonna be there for me, who’s gonna be supporting me and giving me emotional strength. And so if you have a life that’s so stunted and narrowly focused that all you’re doing is picking stocks, you don’t have relationships with people who are going to be there for you. I think you’re making yourself very vulnerable.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so I, I just think you have to think more deeply about these questions of how to be sustainably successful both in investing in life. And that means you have to, you have to invest in your relationships, you have to invest in things like meditation, exercise, stuff like that. And so these things that I think in my youth I thought were just digressions, I think turn out to be really, really important.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM : So that was the first half of my conversation with William Green. Next time we should continue the discussion and learn what Charlie Munger said about William’s book. We’ll hear from the expert, what it takes to be a good interviewer and why to be really good at investing or indeed in any endeavor, William believes it helps to be just a bit weird.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM : One thing stands out Green is genuinely fascinated in people and in what makes a successful investor and if you haven’t read his book already, I thoroughly recommend it till next time. And part two of this conversation, by the way, we had a debate internally about splitting this episode into two or producing a longer interview.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM : Splitting. It is something of an experiment. I’d love to hear what my listeners think, email me at info at behind the balance sheet dot com with your thoughts on this or indeed on any aspect of the podcast. I love to get your feedback. Thanks as ever for your support.
PART 2 – 23B
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Last time we heard Green explain why the great investors are such thoughtful practical philosophers. It’s because students of life, Green quotes Munger who says he watches what works and what doesn’t work and learns from it. In this part of our conversation, you learn what Charlie Munger said about Green’s book spoiler. He liked it a lot. How to be a good interviewer.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: This is instruction from one of the best practitioners of that art and why William thinks that no matter the endeavor being just a little bit weird, helps in life. I’m sure you’re gonna enjoy it in the book. You talk about loners and you talk about how many of these great investors got divorced and I mean, there was the odd one. Was it Tom Gaynor who’s married, his childhood sweetheart?
WILLIAM GREEN: He’s been dating since they were 15.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: But do, do you think that, the job does pull people’s lives apart? And it’s just the pressure.
WILLIAM GREEN: I’m friends with Mohnish Pabrai who’s a remarkable person. I write about at length in the book and I traveled in India with him for the, for the book, for several days and, and Mohnish, who, who got divorced and, now has a great relationship with a lovely, a lovely person.
WILLIAM GREEN: He’s close to Charlie Munger and there was a moment where he went to Charlie’s house and he said, Charlie, how do you like William’s book? And Charlie was like, oh, fantastic. And, and he said, do you have any, I don’t know if that’s exactly the word, but, you know, it was a very, he videoed him saying this and he was incredibly flattering about it and, sorry if this self sounds self congratulatory.
WILLIAM GREEN: And Mohnish said to him, was there anything any insights that particularly struck you? And he said, Manga said something like, yeah, how many of us got divorced? And he said, and it makes sense because it’s such an all consuming game that we neglected our partners. And I think that’s partly what it is that to be really good at anything. You have to be a, I mean, not just really good but astonishingly good. I think you have to be a little bit maniacal.
WILLIAM GREEN: I also think you probably have to be a little bit weird.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so there’s a degree of obsessiveness and probably a lack of emotion that a lot of the great investors have that doesn’t make for the greatest spouse material, the, the people.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: That you’ve interviewed, they’re, I mean, they’re all distinguished by the fact that they’re incredibly successful, but they tend to be a bit loners. They, they aren’t in that group. I mean, I’m sure there are some team players but they don’t seem to be generally team players. And I was also struck.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: I mean, James Anderson, the former senior partner of Bailey Gifford who invested in Tesla at the start and got out or to cut his position very significantly, very near the top. He’s not in your list of interviewees. I mean, have you consciously filtered people who are part of larger organizations? Was there some method to your selection process?
WILLIAM GREEN: Very little method, it was, no, I was looking, I, I interviewed a lot of people. Right. I mean, I interviewed more than 40 people in depth for this book and then I had to decide who am I gonna go big on.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so the people I went big on tended to be people who I thought were admirable and interesting and good role models and good thinkers. And so they weren’t just the richest people. They were people who you wanted to learn from.
WILLIAM GREEN: So that was one that was one filter. Another was that I think they, they had to have been sustainably successful. Like you couldn’t just have people who are a flash in the pan, but they also had to illustrate principles that were interesting.
WILLIAM GREEN: So even if they blew up or underperformed for years, at least you were teaching things or sharing ideas that would be enduringly valuable. So that was one filter. But then there was a, there’s a subconscious thing that’s obviously going on and I realized this at a certain point, the, you know, the book took me about five years to write.
WILLIAM GREEN: It was an incredibly obsessive, totally all consuming pursuit. I mean, I didn’t take a vacation in, in five years and I look back at a certain point and I realized, wait a second, everyone I’ve written about to some degree is a loner. There’s somebody who’s gone their own direction and cracked this code. They figured out the code of the markets in some way.
WILLIAM GREEN: That’s so ingenious and thoughtful and independent spirited. And then they’ve structured their lives in a way that’s true to who they are by having outwitted the crowd in some way and thought better than everyone else. And then I started to think, oh, shit. That’s what I’m obsessed with.
WILLIAM GREEN: That’s because I’m a writer who’s an outsider who’s trying to figure out how to live, who’s trying to figure out how to crack the code of how to live in a way that’s true to myself, to crack the code of how to live, how to operate, how to build a truly successful life in, in the deepest sense of the word, not just financially but in terms of being true to yourself.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so I think there was something that I hadn’t realized that was going on that I was very drawn to these independent spirited free thinking problem solvers who weren’t part of the crowd who were trying to outwit the crowd. And so there’s some aspect of me scouring the world looking for people who are fellow travelers in trying to figure out how to think how to live, how to do it themselves.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I just, I think for there’s a, there’s a lovely image from the novelist Henry James, where he talks about how the writer always has their nose pressed up against the glass, like they’re outside, their nose pressed up against the glass watching and observing, they’re not, they’re not quite part of the group, they’re outside the group.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I think on the whole, the greatest investors have that same slightly dispassionate, slightly weird detachment from the crowd. And, and I interviewed Chris Davis about this, the guy I mentioned before, who, who thought of going into seminary.
WILLIAM GREEN: And Chris was talking to me about his father, who was a legendary investor, great investor called Shelby Davis. And Chris was saying to me, look, all of these guys tend to have very low emotional intelligence, low E Q. And he said it kind of makes sense because to beat the market, you have to diverge from the market, right? So you have to be different. You’ve got to be a little odd.
WILLIAM GREEN: And he said for some of these guys, it’s really helpful if they have low E Q because they actually are too obtuse emotionally to know what the crowd is thinking and how the crowd feels. And so they can think for themselves because they’re not subject to the same emotions.
WILLIAM GREEN: And when I went to interview Charlie Munger, I said to him when, when the market was crashing in late 2008 and early 2009, and banks were going bankrupt and you bought Wells Fargo at what he described as the bottom tick for Wells Fargo in, in, I think March 2009. And he said it was a once in 40 year opportunity. And I said to him, did you feel any fear or any emotion? He said no.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I said, so you’re not fighting those emotions because you don’t have them?
WILLIAM GREEN: And it’s like, right.
WILLIAM GREEN: And he said, and Warren is wired exactly the same way.
WILLIAM GREEN: That’s, that’s really interesting to me as an insight into the wiring, the emotional wiring and behavior of extreme performers that they’re these, they’re these maverick independent spirited people cracking the code and Outwitting the crowd by thinking better and being less emotional while everyone else is fearful or less.
WILLIAM GREEN: Or, or just not getting carried away by crowd euphoria. And so I think for me as an independent spirited guy, I mean, I’m, I’m a, you know, look, I’m, I’m a Jew who went to Eden.
WILLIAM GREEN: There were maybe 10 of us.
WILLIAM GREEN: And while, you know, you would be surrounded by all of these posh people with great histories, you know, my, my family had fled from Russia and Ukraine and Poland and we’ve been living in Tel and so here I was at the poshest school, but I didn’t feel posh, I was sort of an outsider and then I have a birth Mark on my face, right. So I didn’t look the same as everyone else and then I was a writer.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so I just, I, maybe I just naturally felt like I’m a little different and my mind is different. I mean, you know, I mean, look, I’m writing about investing, but I’m drawing on Tibetan Buddhism and Kabbalah and, and the study of the science of habits and meditation.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I mean, look, I, I look at my desk here, I’ve got a book on Quality by Robert Puig who wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance. And then I’ve got a 2000 year old book in Aramaic on my desk. A pretty weird dude. And so, and those are the things that legitimate. And then I look further and it says integral life practice.
WILLIAM GREEN: And there’s another book on integral theory. And I mean, those are weird interests that are all pretty disparate. And so I don’t know, I think, you know, Bill Miller said to me once he, he said that there was some guy he met very early in his career who was talking to all of these young money managers and analysts and said, look, all of you are studying the same thing.
WILLIAM GREEN: You’re reading the same thing, you’re reading the Wall Street Journal The New York Times every day, you’re reading the same analyst reports. How can you possibly think differently when you’re reading all of the same things?
WILLIAM GREEN: And there was Bill Miller who, when I first interviewed him, I said to him, who’s your greatest influence as an investor? And it became pretty clear that it was Ludwig Wittgenstein and William James, two philosophers. That’s a really interesting mind. That’s a guy who was able to outwit the market because he thought differently.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so he was looking, say at Wickens Stine’s picture of a triangle where Wickens says, well, what is it, describe it? It’s all of these different things depending on your perspective. And Bill was saying, think about Amazon. This is back in 2001 that we were talking 4001, we were talking and Amazon had crashed. It had gone from, I think, 90 to maybe a low of five or six.
WILLIAM GREEN: And he’d bought 15% of the company as it was crashing. And he said to me, think about how you describe Amazon in the same way as you think about how you describe that triangle. And he said, for some people, they look at Amazon and it’s a money losing bookseller, that will never be profitable, that’s doomed to go bankrupt.
WILLIAM GREEN: It’s run by this young uppity billionaire and it’s a stock that just burned them all. It’s the quintessence, the perfect embodiment of the irrational exuberance of the dot com bubble in 98 99 2000 and they can’t stand it. And he said, look at this guy at Barrons week in week out, kicks the crap out of Amazon. He can’t get enough out of writing about how bad this thing is.
WILLIAM GREEN: And he’s like I look at it and he said, it reminds me of Fannie Mae when I talked to Peter Lynch about Fannie Mae when I first went to get advice from Peter Lynch all those years ago at the start of my career. And Peter Lynch said to me, why don’t you own Fannie Mae? He’s like, you’ve got a great portfolio.
WILLIAM GREEN: Why don’t you own Fannie Mae? And Bill said, well, I don’t understand it. I don’t understand why you own it. And Peter Lynch said, well, go figure it out and not long afterwards, Bill tells Peter Lynch, I figured it out and he figures out that they had some cost advantage was concealed at the Time and, and that eventually would become apparent.
WILLIAM GREEN: And Bill said, when I looked at Amazon, I could see the same thing, I could see that they had a cost advantage that was concealed by the fact that they were losing money. And so I could see that eventually, the fact that they didn’t have physical stores that they had warehouses and the like they would do better than because they would have this cost advantage.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so the fact that he was able to take Wittgenstein and William James who were obsessed with misperception and how to perceive clearly reality as it is rather than through your own biases that gave him a competitive advantage. So I think in some way, yes, you need all of these financial literacy skills.
WILLIAM GREEN: Like, you know, as Charlie Munger would say, you don’t want to be the one legged guy in an, in an arse kicking contest, not knowing how to read balance sheets and the like, but you also need to be reading other things and thinking about other perspectives to have a competitive advantage because otherwise you’re just reading the same nonsense that everyone else is reading.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Well, it will amuse you. But one of my hypotheses is that people don’t read the 10 Ks and the balance sheet.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: And that’s why people are interested in doing my courses because they, they don’t, it’s actually been proven it, understanding the balance sheet will give you, we’ll give you an advantage, you know, slightly curious thing. Were you surprised at how well the book has done? Were you expecting it to be this successful?
WILLIAM GREEN: I put heart and soul into the book. So at a certain point, I just decided I’m playing for keeps here. I just, the stakes kept going up partly because it was during COVID and you started to think more about your own mortality. And I started to realize as I got deeper and deeper into it, I just started to think, well, I have something here that’s totally and utterly unique and precious in that.
WILLIAM GREEN: I’ve spent 25 years interviewing these people like Bogle and Peter Lynch and Sir John Templeton. And then I have this incredible access to these extraordinary people now like the Ed Thorpe or Howard Marx or you know, I mean, I interviewed every, not everyone but an enormous number of really great people. And in some cases I’d spent days with them.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so I just thought this is a real treasure trove that would be very hard to recreate. And so, rather than doing this in a sort of self congratulatory way of thinking, this is gonna be our best seller and I’m gonna be fantastic and everyone’s gonna love me. I just thought I actually have a chance to create something that’s to use a phrase that a friend of mine use use is often true, beautiful and good.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I just thought I better not squander this because I may never have this opportunity again in the rest of my life. And I was thinking again, you know, I mean, some people will, I’m just trying to be honest because some people will look at the book and be like, well, it sucks really after all that effort, that’s all you could do.
WILLIAM GREEN: But I, I remember that, you know, Ford Madoxx, Ford, who I talked about earlier wrote something like 85 books. If I remember he was incredibly prolific and people underestimated him because he just was pumping stuff out.
WILLIAM GREEN: And he said he sat down at the age of 40 to show people what he could do. And he sat down and wrote The Good Soldier, which is one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. It’s basically a perfect novel. It’s just utterly perfect.
WILLIAM GREEN: I mean, Graham Greene said at one point that it was the greatest French novel in the English language because it sounds like flow bear. It’s like it feels like you’re reading Madam Bovary. It’s like every word is perfect.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I slightly had that feeling again, not to want to be self aggrandizing because, you know, I don’t have the talent of of 44 flow back.
WILLIAM GREEN: But I sat down at the age of, you know, what was it? 47 to 52 or whatever? And I just thought I want to leave one thing that’s really valuable because I, I spent a lot of Time editing great writers, right? Like I, I edited the Asian edition of Time Magazine and then the European edition of Time Magazine.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so I would edit people like Jan Morris or William Dori or a who I, you know, won the Booker Prize with the White Tiger. And I convinced Avi to leave Colombia and come work as an editor when I was an editor to come work as a writer for me in New York. And then when I moved to Asia to work at Time, I convinced him to leave and move to India.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so I’d edited all of these fantastic writers, but you’re concealed, you’re, you’re using this skill that you’ve developed over many years, but you’re really just the the nurse maid, you know, the, the delivery person in the, in the delivery room, which is a very honorable and fulfilling and exciting and beautiful thing to be.
WILLIAM GREEN: But I think there was some sense in which I wasn’t fulfilling my potential. And so when I had the opportunity to write my own thing and real attitude to do it, I just thought I’m going to put heart and soul into this. And if there’s any, I’m sorry to be sort of so self referential.
WILLIAM GREEN: But I think if there’s any takeaway from this that’s vaguely helpful to people, it relates to this idea of quality that Sig writes about in Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. And this had a huge influence on Nick Sleep who write about in the book, who had this incredible record running the Nomad Fund with Case Sakar that is called.
WILLIAM GREEN: And this idea of quality of committing to quality in a kind of obsessive, uncompromising way, there’s something very, very powerful about that. And, and you know, Sig says there’s an ugly way to do things in a beautiful way to do things, whether you’re sharpening a knife or mending a dress or fixing a chair.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so Nick and Zach decided that when they were running the Nomad Fund, we’re just gonna do this in the highest quality way.
WILLIAM GREEN: And that influenced their fee structure, the way they treated each other, the way they treated their clients, the information they favored, they were looking at long term information that wasn’t perishable. It didn’t have a short shelf life as they put it.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so they would get all of the Wall Street research and they would just sort of tip it into the, into the bin and they said, no, no, we’re just focused on these long term questions. Like, what’s the ultimate destination for Amazon?
WILLIAM GREEN: What’s the ultimate destination for Costco? And then let’s, let’s go back from saying, here’s a beautiful destination in 10, 15, 20 years and say, well, what inputs are required for them to get to that destination? And are they treating their customers in that way?
WILLIAM GREEN: Are they treating their suppliers in that way? And so that’s a very long term approach. So, so it’s very defined by this idea of quality is the company behaving in a high quality way. Are they favoring the long term over the short term?
WILLIAM GREEN: And so I feel like in some way when I decided kind of in this obstinate way that I was just gonna do the best book I could possibly do. I was aligning myself with these maniacal obsessives. And I, I think, I think when you’re looking at your own life, you have to decide.
WILLIAM GREEN: Well, so do I want to be one of the people who just pumps out mediocre crap because you got to feed the beast. So I think of this with my own podcast where I’m like, do I do I want to do a podcast every week? No, it’s too much do I want to write a subst state newsletter and pump out stuff to build my brand? No, I, I don’t care.
WILLIAM GREEN: That’s not what I’m optimizing for if I write one or two more books in the course of my life, but they’re good. That would be pretty valuable to me. So I think of someone like Robert Caro, the great, the great biographer Linda Johnson who spent the last 50 years, right? Writing about Linda Johnson and he’s just incredible.
WILLIAM GREEN: I was listening to an interview the other day with Robert Gottlieb, who’s his legendary editor, one of the greatest editors of all Time. His daughter has just made a documentary about the relationship between Caro and Gottlieb.
WILLIAM GREEN: So her father and one of his most famous writers and she said that she said to Carol gosh, I’m so sorry that my, my film took something like five years or seven years I think to make. And Kara said to her, oh, it takes seven years to create anything of enduring value.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I, I there was a moment where I was in my kitchen. I just went ha you know, to myself.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Well, listen, you’ve got 2800 reviews on Amazon and a 4.8 star rating, which I mean, I think is unbelievable.
WILLIAM GREEN: Thanks, I tell you the best, the, the best thing if I’m going to Toot My own Horn, which as I say that I’m like, don’t do this stop. Now, there was a moment where I had a Zoom call with Charlie Munger and a few other great investors and, and Charlie said, it’s one of the best investing books ever written.
WILLIAM GREEN: And, and I sort of thought I can relax now, I can just sort of say no, this wasn’t for a blood, this was just privately, but it, I can’t tell you there was some part of me that just sort of breathed a sigh of relief. And I was like, oh, ok, so you’ve got this now 99 year old guy who’s probably the smartest guy, the investing world, you know, he’s read everything who reads about 300 books a year saying that.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I was just like, ok, so maybe I created something of, of enduring value. And so I’m saying it not like there is a sort of appallingly self congratulatory site saying that. So I’m sorry. But actually there was a part of me that was like, oh, that’s really beautiful.
WILLIAM GREEN: And it made me think, you know, Buffett always talks about how you should live by an inner scorecard and you shouldn’t really care what other people think. And I’ve idealized that view of trying to live in a way that’s true to who you are. But the the truth is I really care what other people think.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: And of course, you can’t not right. I mean, especially if you’ve produced a piece of literally work and to have Munger say that, I mean, that says, oh, I mean, anybody listening to this podcast is, you know, they’re on their app on Amazon buying it right now. I’m sure if they haven’t already got it actually. Funny enough, I had a call with one of my clients this morning who hadn’t got your book and they, they bought it on the call.
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STEPHEN CLAPHAM: I just was gonna ask you just before we, we finish off that. I mean, obviously you’re a brilliant writer, but you must also be a great interviewer. What, what does it take to be a good interviewer?
WILLIAM GREEN: Deep curiosity as you were mentioning before, but also I think some degree of deep empathy that I think is, is valuable. And I was thinking recently I talked to my daughter Madeleine a lot about this sort of thing. She’s 21. She’s very talented and she’s a, she like me is a little bit of, an eccentric and doesn’t approach the world in a kind of normal way.
WILLIAM GREEN: She’s writing songs and writing the kid’s book and, you know, drawing and painting, you know, so she’s eccentric and I, I think somehow at anything that you do to a high level, you’re having to harness your own particular form of craziness, your own eccentricity. And so I think one of the things that I have that helps me as an, as an interviewer is I think I feel the emotion of the other person.
WILLIAM GREEN: So I, I was interviewing someone a few weeks ago, the famous ambassador. And there was a moment where I felt almost like overwhelmed by his sense of sadness and in so in some ways in life, that’s a disadvantage, right? That I have very raw emotions and I’m oversensitive and I’m, I’m oversensitive to criticism or fear of failure or fear of judgment or anxiety.
WILLIAM GREEN: You know, the the like my emotions are raw. But on the other hand, I, you know, I had had this wonderful English teacher at Eaton called Raph Townsend, who was the best teacher I ever had, who was, became my son’s headmaster at Winchester. And he was very extraordinary. I was talking to him a few years ago in a taxi in New York.
WILLIAM GREEN: I was talking to him about a relative of mine who’s eccentric and very gifted. And he said it’s the disfigurement of the gift. And I, I did a double take and what he said, yeah, with every gift that comes a disfigurement. And I think that’s true, that to be good, to be very good at anything.
WILLIAM GREEN: It helps to be a little weird to be taking advantage of your odd characteristics. And I think that’s the case, whether you’re a writer, an investor, an interviewer. And I, I tell you one thing, Steve that I started to realize at a certain point, you know, I’m a, I’m a pained writer. It’s not easy for me. It’s very difficult for me to write.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I get, and, and there was a there was a moment where I realized at a certain point that my obsessive going over and over and over words and sentences, I mean, to a degree that people would regard as kind of maniacal is a form of self soothing that there’s something actually where even though I find writing painful, you’re in a world where everything is very unpredictable and you don’t have control over the future and you don’t have control over how other people are going to view you.
WILLIAM GREEN: You know, we’ve seen through COVID through the Ukraine War through market meltdowns and like, you know, the future is unknowable. We live in a very uncertain world.
WILLIAM GREEN: And yet here as a writer, I could control one little thing and it was, how’s this paragraph gonna turn out? How’s this? And so there are weird things going on in my book where literally, like I would get a chapter down to 11,000, 1100 or 11,111 words just because it gave me pleasure that it was all one, it was all one.
WILLIAM GREEN: That’s a, there’s a degree of kind of craziness there.
WILLIAM GREEN: That’s underlying that obsessiveness to get things to a point where you’re controlling the length of a long chapter to the word. But I think, I think there’s something in this that should be heartening to our listeners that when you’re a little bit eccentric, that’s where the beauty lies, that’s where your gift lies.
WILLIAM GREEN: And also to know that with your gift, there is the disfigurement, there is the disfigurement of the gift, like, you know, the greatest investors getting divorced more because it’s a challenge for them to have an enduring relationship. And so that’s comforting to know that your greatest gift is also often your greatest challenge and vice versa.
WILLIAM GREEN: But it’s also, I mean, it’s, it’s part of the human condition. And so I think it, it requires us to have a little bit of self compassion about our failings and our weirdnesses and to recognize that they’re also our gifts.
WILLIAM GREEN: But also to know, you know, that you, you need to take advantage of those things because they’re probably way most talented and you also need a little compassion with the, the odd bods around you. You know, you look at your kids, your relative, your spouse, the people you’re working with, they’re all strange in their own way and they all, they all have their own disfigurements and their own burdens to bear.
WILLIAM GREEN: And this was one of the things I was trying to write about in the book was to give a sense that just, just because you’re a hugely rich, hugely successful, well known investor doesn’t mean you, you’re not in pain and you’re not struggling in certain ways. And I, I just thought, as I got up close to a lot of the greatest investors, they have their problems too.
WILLIAM GREEN: These guys, they, you know, they have kids with depression, they have kids with bulimia, anorexia. They, you know, they have broken marriages, they have public disappointment and failure.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I, and I think that’s very heartening in some ways to know that we all have our burden to bear and that it, it is, it is part of the human condition and, and it means we, we shouldn’t fantasize that the money is somehow going to set us free. But if you, if you make all this money and you achieve all this success, everyone’s gonna think it’s so fantastic.
WILLIAM GREEN: It’s like, no, it’s, it’s like, it’s like in the same way, you know, I had a moment of, of great joy and elation that Charlie manga told me my book was great. And then you’re back to having your usual self doubt and self recrimination and you sit around thinking, I, I think I said something yesterday. There was one point where my daughter was laughing at me.
WILLIAM GREEN: I said, God, do I even have a right to live? I mean, look at me such a schmuck. I don’t say I can’t even remember what it was. And like this total self contempt comes out and it’s like, yeah, so I, you know, when I’m telling myself, oh, no, I did a great job with this book and it’s been successful and stuff that’s partly just to reassure myself that, you know, I deserve a place in the world.
WILLIAM GREEN: It’s like we’re all, we’re all struggling to get through and get by and improve. And, you know, when I, when I look at the greatest investors, one of the most striking common denominators, it’s just their perseverance, they just stick at it.
WILLIAM GREEN: You know, they go through these periods where they fail, where they underperform and they just keep plugging away, keep trying to improve, keep trying to learn, keep coming back to take more pain and to improve. And that also is heartening.
WILLIAM GREEN: So I’m looking at the greatest investors and I’m not, I’m not saying in the way that I would have done in my early twenties. Here’s how you get rich as quick as possible. You know, it’s like no like here’s how you build a sustainably successful life and that, that requires you to recognize that we all fail. We all have periods of disappointment, we all have our struggles.
WILLIAM GREEN: We all have our blind spots and yet there are ways that you can improve. There are ways of behaving that tilt the odds subtly in your favor. And I think when you study the greatest investors, you can pick up some pretty powerful clues about how to tilt the odds in your favor.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Yeah. And I think that comes over very clearly in the book, we normally ask guests if they, if there’s a book that they would like to recommend. And we do actually ask authors that, I mean, obviously we’ll link to your book in the show notes.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: But is there you’re you like giving books? And I just wondered if, I mean, is there any book that you would like people that they should read, perhaps something that they, that they haven’t thought of that will improve their investment performance or their life?
WILLIAM GREEN: The books I give most regularly are actually Kabbalist books that the books that come from this long mystical tradition that goes back several 1000 years. And they’re very so I’m, I’m increasingly obsessed both with Tibetan Buddhism and Kabbalah.
WILLIAM GREEN: But I also study things like Hinduism and stoicism and the like, and I’m very interested in the similarities, the themes that go through all of these different paths. But I feel So, so, so I spent a lot of Time studying a particular Tibetan Buddhist, a guy called Sony Rim, which is spelled T S O K N Y I.
WILLIAM GREEN: And he has a new book that he wrote with Daniel Goldman, who I wrote the Emotional Intelligence book that’s called Why We Meditate, but which is actually about more than that. And I have an interview with the two of them on my podcast. The Ritual wi is a happier podcast.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I kind of like the subversiveness of the fact that I have probably the only Saffron Robed enlightened meditation master ever to have appeared on an investment podcast because Sony is pretty unbelievable. So, so I think Sony is someone really worth studying and, and he has a course online called Fully Being that I’ve been doing off and on for a couple of years.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I, I, I think it’s a very, very good course and his teachings are profound and important. And so I turn people on to that. And then I think one reason why I was so drawn to Sony Rim is that he comes from this great 1000 year lineage where his father was a great Tibetan Buddhist master called Rim.
WILLIAM GREEN: And it goes back a long Time and I think part of what struck me was that the lineage of Kabbalist I study also goes back thousands of years. And I think there’s something about the way wisdom gets passed down through a lineage from father to son or from great master to student. It’s very powerful and beautiful. And so I love these ancient wisdoms that have stood the test of Time.
WILLIAM GREEN: I think that’s powerful when something has stood the test of Time. You want to say, why, what can I get from this? And, and this gets us back to Templeton a way that really a lot of this stuff, whether it’s studying Kabbalah or Buddhism or stoicism or in Templeton’s case, Christianity and many other faiths, it’s really about getting control of your inner landscape.
WILLIAM GREEN: And this is what I really failed to understand about Templeton back then is that you don’t want your own mind to be just this wild sort of confusion where it’s just sort of all over the place without you being aware of it, without you being aware of how your thoughts and emotions are yanking you around.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so I think part of becoming a, a wiser and happier individual and probably a better investor as well is to get more of a sense of how your own mind operates and how your emotions operate.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so I think studying these things like meditation, Tibetan Buddhism and figuring out what’s going on inside your mind is really powerful because also you have control over it to some degree, but you only have control of it when you’re aware of what’s going on. So, so I did sit and meditate this morning and I’m, I’m looking at, I’m like, my mind is just all over the place.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I’m like, wow, this thing that you’re dealing with at the moment there’s something that’s not work related that I’m dealing with. And I’m like, that’s really unsettling and I, like, I don’t know, realize just how much that’s unsettling you.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so just to have a little bit of distance from that is very powerful and one of the things that so she does that you’ll see if you, if you watch my interview with him and also if you read his book or do this fully being, course, one of the things he does is something called handshake practice where he looks at what’s going on at these emotions, negative emotions, difficult emotions, challenging thought patterns, and he handshakes them.
WILLIAM GREEN: He says with this attitude of warmth and kindness, he greets them and he says, hi there, you know, oh OK. I see what’s going on and there’s something really extraordinarily wise about this approach that in instead of judging them or applying an antidote and saying I must change this.
WILLIAM GREEN: I feel angry in this moment or anxious in this moment or sad in this moment, he recognizes that it’s there and he sees how it’s expressing itself in the body and he abides with it. He sits with it and gradually because as the Buddhist teach, everything is impermanent, it changes. And so by just sitting with it in an aware way, the intensity behind it dissipates.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so for me, this has been an incredibly rich area of exploration. So if say, you know, I, I look at how well my book’s doing and then I, I look, and I’m like Jesus Christ, look at Morgan household’s book. It’s sold so many more copies than mine. And I’m like that bastard.
WILLIAM GREEN: How come he’s not better than I am? Why is his book doing so, You know, and then, and then I’m like, look at that and I’m like, oh, jealousy, sadness, sense of inadequacy sense, you know, and I can handshake that and I can smile at it and I can be like, OK, that’s ok.
WILLIAM GREEN: And that’s, that’s part of the human condition and then it softens a little and I can laugh at it a little and then it passes and I’m like, good on good on Morgan and then it comes up again and I’m like, ha bastard, you know, but at least, at least I’m aware of it.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: But you spent five years. I mean, he spent not even five months?
WILLIAM GREEN: No, he had written, he’d written articles for years about this stuff and he’s, he’s very talented and he’s very smart and so he was sort of collating some of that stuff and bringing it together and, you know, he’s a, he’s a very, very good writer and he’s a very clever guy. So I, I don’t begrudge Morgan his success at all.
WILLIAM GREEN: I’m just, I’m just using it as an example of like, as you become a better user of the machine called Stephen Clapham that requires you to look at yourself and be like, oh, that’s what’s going on. And so then you look at it and then you’re like, oh, that’s why I feel anxious at this moment or that’s why I feel sad at this moment or something.
WILLIAM GREEN: And, and then once you’re aware of it, just sitting with it dissipates the intense energy behind it. And that’s a, that’s a very beautiful thing. And if you look, I’ll give you one more recommendation.
WILLIAM GREEN: There’s a, there’s a book called Letting Go by David Hawkins where he talks about this mechanism of letting Go and it’s exactly the same as what Sony is doing that he’s not judging or suppressing or repressing whatever comes up. He’s looking at it and acknowledging it and then letting the energy behind it dissipate by not trying to do anything to it.
WILLIAM GREEN: And I think because we grew up in England where I see you grew up in England as well. No, I’m Scottish. Ok. So well, but close. Ok. So in the UK, I assume the culture is, is my grandfather was from Glasgow and, and moved to London. And so, you know, I assume we have similar experiences of the culture and the pressures that we were under.
WILLIAM GREEN: And, and so I just, I think there are certain ways in which we were conditioned that didn’t help us to deal with our emotions. And so for me, I was a slightly melancholy, depressed teenager at boarding school and, and feeling a bit of a misfit and nobody taught me how to deal with those emotions.
WILLIAM GREEN: Nobody really knew what was going on. I got incredibly lucky that I had an unbelievably kind housemaster at who tolerated me doing things like saying, I mean, I just decided in my, a level year, I, I just stopped going to history class because I decided my history teacher was boring.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so I just decided I was going to teach myself and housemaster was head of the history department and didn’t stop me doing that. And, and what did you get in the A level? I think I got a B which was pretty good doing it yourself.
WILLIAM GREEN: But yeah, I mean, but nobody was telling me how to operate. And so so I sort of feel like, you know, how to deal with my emotions. And so I, I feel like these Tibetan figured out certain things by sitting quietly with their emotions in caves over the last 1000 years and watching the mind while meditating that they saw what was going on in there.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so they have this kind of practical technology through meditation and through with, with certain reshape, these practices like handshake practice where they figured out very wise ways of dealing with emotion.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so for, for me part of my exploration that I, I hope some of our listeners will get interested in is going on that journey trying to figure out how to make your inner landscape a better and happier and, and calmer place. Because what you really want is to have equanimity within the Maelstrom of life because as we can see with the last couple of years, the craziness is going to continue.
WILLIAM GREEN: So the question is, can we be calm and balanced within the Maelstrom? And so one of the things that Sony Rimsha says that I love is he talks about when you’re meditating, sitting within the fluidity without judging.
WILLIAM GREEN: That’s a really beautiful idea. Everything is flowing around you, your thoughts, your craziness, your emotions that, you know, I had construction in my house this morning and for the last several months. And so I got builders there, my wife comes up and is like it going.
WILLIAM GREEN: I love the new bathroom and, and then there’s drilling and there’s hammering and I’m sitting there trying to meditate. So you’re sitting in the fluidity without judging, you’re just like, ok, yeah, this is my reality right now and think about the applications for investing where you’re in the heart of the Maelstrom.
WILLIAM GREEN: Think about the reality of all that we’re dealing with in the news every day. And so if you can be the calm in the eye of the storm, that’s a very beautiful and very powerful thing. And you can, you’re then in a position to help other people because you’re not so overwhelmed by your own emotion or your own fears or worries.
WILLIAM GREEN: And so that’s, that’s a lot of what I’m interested in and it, it sounds like I’m, I’m going off the deep end and going a long way from investing. But actually, what’s really curious is how many of my well known investor friends are meditating at exercising, praying, you know, figuring out how to get this in a landscape under control so they can operate, you know, their own vehicle properly.
WILLIAM GREEN: Brilliant.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Thank you so much. People, where can they find you? So we know the book is Richer Wiser Happier. We know the podcast is Richer Wiser Happier. I don’t think you need any more listeners. I suspect you’re doing quite well.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: And you’re on Twitter at @William Green72 and people are welcome to connect with me there or connect with me on linkedin. And I hope people will read the book and will listen to the podcast because it’s
WILLIAM GREEN: And I hope people will read the book and will listen to the podcast because the podcast has these very, very rich conversations with people, not only about investing but about other aspects of life. And it’s kind of a treasure trove to have these extraordinary people thinking about so many different aspects of life. And I’m not sort of a a shill for this stuff. I’m not trying to kind of, you know, my brand and build my bank account and stuff. I’m like, trying to create something. I mean, yeah, I’m probably happy for that to happen as well. But I’m, I’m trying to create something that’s actually invaluable to people and, and what I’m doing is, you know, I’m trying to learn myself because I’m struggling.
WILLIAM GREEN: You know, I’m, I’m on the same path of trying to figure out these things, trying to figure out how to be calm, how to deal with adversity, how to improve, how to improve my habits, how to invest better, how to be a better parent, how to be a better son, all of these things. And so it’s a way of thinking aloud and exploring these questions aloud. And so I, I, I hope people find it helpful.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Well, listen, thank you so much for giving up your time. I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly.
WILLIAM GREEN: And it’s been a great pleasure. Thank you for having me and for your, your infinite patience and listening to me drone on.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: It hadn’t occurred to me before in my conversation with William. But one of the things which is common to good journalists and good investors is curiosity. I think it’s essential to be curious to be successful in either endeavor. And I think many journalists would make good investors and probably an even higher proportion of good investors would make good journalists.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: I really enjoyed hearing about William’s life philosophy and some of his learnings from all those interviews with great investors one thing stands out. William Green is genuinely fascinated in people and in what makes a successful investor and a successful life. If you haven’t read his book already, I thoroughly recommend it. Some of you like the idea of this two part conversation. Others hated it and it was 50 50.
STEPHEN CLAPHAM: I probably won’t do this again, but I’m still keen to hear your thoughts. Please email me at info at behind the balance sheet dot com. Thank you.